Angry Birds is a game without a narrative. To say that I was concerned about what the adaptation of the mobile game would need to do to make a 90-minute feature feel like a movie is a little understated.
The movie, while not outstanding or even particularly memorable, is far from a disaster and even manages to pluck at the heartstrings a couple of times. There are legitimate and surprising laugh-out-loud moments that occur throughout, but the movie finds its heart in its empowerment of vulnerability.
Like all animated children's films, Angry Birds soars on the teaching of core values, like acceptance and the importance of friendship, but at times can feel a little forced. While the characters are fun, there's little personality to the majority of them to make anyone care about the personal growth they experience. Instead, they become the wingmen to Red, the main character, and take on the role of being his supporting act.
There are a few flaws in Angry Birds, and it doesn't have the refined, emotional impact we've come to expect out of children's films — like we do with Disney and Pixar productions — but it does still make for an entertaining hour-and-a-half if you've got nothing to do on a rainy afternoon.
It's an incredibly childish movie, but that doesn't make it bad
I try to stay away from specific narrative details in reviews for a couple of reasons, but one of the most important being that I don't like the idea of spoiling anything major for those who want to know as a little as possible going in. With Angry Birds, that gets a little more difficult, because one of the biggest questions is how did the team at Sony manage to take a game with little to no storyline and make a feature-length movie out of it?
It's not like it hasn't been done before. Dwayne Johnson attempted to make something that looks like a movie with Doom in 2005 and it was just recently announced that Atari's iconic arcade game Centipede was going to be adapted into a major motion picture, too. Despite the precedent, however, these adaptations always seem questionable at best because there's little to work with.
Although Red isn't looking to change any aspect of his life, when a group of strange pigs invade the island, led by their leader, Leonard (Bill Hader), Red is forced to team up with his two new comrades and figure out what the pigs are up to before it's too late.
One of the best decisions directors Clay Kaytis and Feral Reilly make is choosing to stay away from pandering to an audience of people who played the game. Although there are elements of the game incorporated — the slingshot, for example, is most definitely used — other references to the game are done so with tongue-in-cheek jabs. The success of the movie's comedy rests entirely in how silly the movie really is.
That's perhaps the best way to sum up how Angry Birds feels the majority of the time: Silly. Everything about the movie doesn't make sense, including the reactions to events that occur within it. In many ways, it's an incredibly childish movie, but that doesn't make it bad. It knows its audience and caters specifically to it.
The best way to enjoy this movie is by embracing the silliness and running with it. Much like how one of the best ways to enjoy horror movies is to rid yourself of any logic going in, — of course the three teenagers shouldn't split up as they enter the house where a known serial killer lives —the best way to enjoy this movie is remind yourself exactly what it is and what its humor is going to consist of.
And while there are certainly moments where the silliness works, the main problem Angry Birds faces is that there's nothing exceptional or unique about it. The jokes that don't land feel stale, the emotional moments can feel forced and some of the secondary characters feel underused, wasted and questionable at times.
Part of the problem comes from the film trying to include as many elements of the game as possible while also trying to keep it as a separate entity. There's only so much pandering you can include in a movie before it starts to become obvious to everyone watching and, above all else, annoying.
The jokes that don't land feel stale
Angry Birds never learns this and the tongue-in-cheek references that are included to remind audiences that it is a movie based on the game lose the chuckling factor they had toward the beginning. The film also feels like it's trying to emulate other animated movies instead of trying to carve its own space in the already crowded scene.
Still despite the mediocre fog that hangs over the movie, Angry Birds is better than I expected it to be. It has enough positives to make it a decent movie night for the family, even if there are a few moments of boringness that must be sat through. The best parts of Angry Birds happen when the movie forgets there's a video game version of itself out there and just tackles the story of Red and his quest to be accepted by the people in his world.
Angry Birds could have been an unmitigated disaster, and it was a big relief to see that it didn't even come close to that.